Ever since the invention of the wheel circa 3500 B.C. in Mesopotamia, humanity, and consequently, human civilisation,have always been shaped by technology. Seemingly simple technological advancement like water supply, drainage and sewage seen in Indus Valley civilisations almost five thousand years ago allowed humans to live closely together. The domestication of rice and other plants in the Middle Yangtze region in China birthed large scale agriculture which could feed large number of people and thereby halt the nomadic instincts of human. The development of alphabets and writing by Sumerians around 3000 B.C. gave the human race the ability to record history and develop ideas beyond their individual lifetimes.
We could find a thousand more examples on how technology has played a massive part in the growth of our species. Suffice to say that technology has progressively made our lives collectively safer and more comfortable.
Human technological advancements can be roughly categorised into five separate epochs, namely :
While there have been many, many critical technological advancements made prior to the first industrial revolution, the pace was very sluggish. It took humanity approximately three million years to upgrade from stone tools to bronze ones, while the progress from writing to printing took about five thousand years.This was understandable, because the best human minds had to start from scratch from every branch of science. For instance, the invention of steam engines was reliant on the earlier discoveries of mathematical equations revolving around atmospheric pressure and the properties of liquid, heat and steam, mining, iron smelting, temperature measurement, and over a hundred more different elementary scientific and mechanical principles and production techniques which literally took thousands of years.
One of the greatest constrains of the pre-Industrial Revolution period is the limited sources of power. As such, the manufacturing and industrial sectors were literally comprised on cottage industries, reliant on the work of individuals, families and small businesses to manufacture and produce products. Transportation, meanwhile, was heavily limited by the energy output of horses and wind. Even food production was limited to energy produced by windmills or waterwheels.
However, the emergence of steam engines changed the world as they then knew it; it was the first truly disruptive tech. When Thomas Newcomen introduced his prototype steam-driven piston engine in 1712, the technology was quickly adopted into mining, agriculture, ironworks, and transportation, to name a few.
It led to economic explosions around Europe which created untold new wealth and new regional superpowers. While wealth were still concentrated at the top, the Industrial Revolution did increase the income level of the rest of the populace and helped increased their quality of life.
The Second Industrial Revolution is basically an extension of the first one, but it is characterised by the massive acceleration and amplification of technological advancements made during the previous epoch. This led to the introduction of the electricity grid, mass production, telephone grid, internal combustion engine, and other large scale technologies. Aside from that, higher focus on applied sciences, such as physical chemistry, thermodynamics and perhaps more crucially, modern physics, contributed to the finer advancements of existing techs.
More popularly known as the Digital Revolution, the Third Industrial Revolution represents the shift to digital technology from mechanical and analogue. While earlier industrial revolutions were powered by new energy sources, the Digital Revolution is powered chiefly by the widespread use of computers and its underlying technologies. Over the past twenty years, the Digital Revolution has been further augmented by the explosion of the personal computer as well as the internet. Some of the most common examples of this epoch include fax machines, digital audio visual mediums, and ecommerce.
Some say we’re on the verge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (a term coined in 2016 during the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland), while according to others, we’re already in this new technological epoch. Either way, what we know for sure is, the world we live in is about to enter a whole new era, and the resulting changes will create massive societal, economic, and governmental changes.
Building up on the advancements introduced during the Digital Revolution, the Fourth Industrial Revolutionis the convergence of the digital, physical, and biological sciences (cyber physical systems).
In the following pages, we’ll be taking a look at some of the most exciting and disruptive advancements we’ll be looking at in the coming years and decades.